When we decided to go to Island Park, we knew Yellowstone would be on the docket, but we didn't know when. We just happened to pick the busiest day of the year to go, the Saturday after the Fourth of July. I guess that's what happens when you have poor planning. It seemed to be a underlying theme to the trip. It's hard because you have to balance 20+ family members' schedules, 20+ family members' preferences, and 4 different cars. Throw in all the other families and their schedules, and you get a lot of bottlenecks and congestion. Close to 900,000 people were expected to visit Yellowstone in July. The difference between getting through the gate on Saturday compared to Monday was probably over an hour. With all the coordination and scheduling issues, something or someone was bound to fall through the cracks.
When we were at Old Faithful, we decided to get something to eat. We almost ate at the first food available, which was an awful food court that was over-priced and underwhelming. After we heard some complaints from some dissatisfied diners, we moved onto the next option. The next restaurant was better priced and better food. Most of the trip we had coached Molly on staying with us or someone that we assigned to watch her. Earlier in the day, we had assigned someone to watch her, but the lunch brought us together and the role of Molly-watcher rested back on us as parents. Molly was so excited to spend time with her cousins that she just took off when the splintered group migrated over to the gift shops. When Heather and I left, we figured Molly was with family and just to be sure, started asking if anyone had seen Molly. I really wasn't worried as I began asking the different family factions, but as I narrowed my search to the party that I figured was most likely to have Molly, and they didn't, I went into full-on freak out mode. I went to security first thing at the gift shop. I called family members to get a small search party organized. We combed the gift shop and worked our way back to the diner. It was only about 10 minutes but it felt like an eternity. It doesn't help that Heather loves to watch every missing child program on TV to prime us for a worse-case scenario. As we made our way back to the diner. Heather called and said they found her at the diner and had taken her to the hotel to color and play some games. Afterward, people came up to me to share their stories of how they were left or how they left a child somewhere. Even with their stories it doesn't make you feel any better about losing your child even for a short time.
We came back to Yellowstone on Monday and again, coordination was an issue. We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out where we were going to meet and have a picnic lunch. When we finally did we pulled off to the side of the rode and ate near a stream. There were a ton of mosquitoes, but luckily Brent's friend brought bug spray that was a life saver. We put our feet in the stream and even saw a buffalo about 75 yards from us.